US condemns China missile launches near Taiwan, urges de-escalation | World News

The United States on Thursday condemned China’s launch of 11 ballistic missiles around Taiwan during major military exercises as an overreaction to Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island, and urged Beijing to ease tensions.

The US House speaker was the most senior US official to visit Taiwan in years, defying a series of stark threats from Beijing, which considers the self-ruled island its territory.

In retaliation, China launched a series of multi-zone exercises around Taiwan, along some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and at some points just 20 kilometers (12 miles) off the island’s coast.

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“China has chosen to overreact and use the speaker’s visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“The temperature is quite high,” but tensions “could very easily drop by simply getting the Chinese to stop doing these very aggressive military exercises,” he added.

The exercises began around noon local time (0400 GMT) and involved a “conventional missile firepower attack” in waters east of Taiwan, the Chinese military said.

Taiwan said the Chinese military fired 11 Dongfeng-class ballistic missiles “in several batches” and condemned the exercises as “irrational actions that undermine regional peace”.

Taipei did not say where the missiles landed or whether they flew over the island.

But Japan, a key US ally, said that of the nine missiles it detected, four “believed to have flown over the main island of Taiwan”.

Tokyo has filed a diplomatic protest with Beijing over the exercises, with Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi saying five of the missiles would have landed in his country’s exclusive economic zone.

Taipei’s Defense Ministry said it detected 22 Chinese fighter jets during Thursday’s exercises that briefly crossed the “median line” of the Taiwan Strait.

AFP journalists on the border island of Pingtan saw several small projectiles flying into the air, followed by plumes of white smoke and loud booming sounds.

On the mainland, at what is said to be China’s closest point to Taiwan, AFP spotted a group of five military helicopters flying at a relatively low altitude near a popular tourist spot.

Beijing has said the exercises will last until Sunday afternoon.

Beijing has defended the exercises as “necessary and just”, blaming the United States and its allies for the escalation.

“In the face of this blatant provocation, we must take legitimate and necessary countermeasures to protect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” State Department spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing on Thursday.

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Military analysts told Beijing’s state broadcaster CCTV that the aim was to practice a possible blockade of the island and contain pro-independence forces.

“The aim is to demonstrate that the PLA is able to control all exits from the Taiwanese island, which will be a major deterrent to the independence separatist forces of Taiwan,” said Zhang Junshe, senior researcher at China Naval Research Institute.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington had contacted Beijing “at every level of government” in recent days to call for calm and stability.

“I sincerely hope Beijing will not create a crisis or seek a pretext to ramp up its aggressive military activity,” Blinken told ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh.

At the same meeting, Japan’s foreign minister called for an “immediate halt” to Chinese military exercises near Taiwan.

“China’s actions this time have a serious impact on peace and stability in the region and the international community,” Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters.

The maneuvers will take place along some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, which are used to deliver vital semiconductors and electronic equipment manufactured in East Asian factory hubs to global markets.

The Taiwan Maritime and Port Bureau has warned ships to avoid the areas used for the Chinese exercises.

Taiwan’s cabinet said the exercises would disrupt 18 international routes through its Flight Information Region (FIR).

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Taiwan’s 23 million people have long lived with the possibility of invasion, but that threat has increased under President Xi Jinping, China’s most assertive ruler in a generation.

Analysts said China’s leadership is keen to project strength ahead of a pivotal ruling party meeting this fall, where Xi is expected to face an unprecedented third term, but China is not seeking to keep the situation out of its control. to escalate – at least for now.

Titus Chen, an associate professor of political science at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan, said, “The last thing Xi wants is an accidental war.”

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